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The U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) yesterday released two rulings related to oversight of Amtrak operations, including a decision that it would withdraw an STB proposal that would have allowed railroads to prioritize freight trains over passenger trains.The board initially argued that its proposed preference policy would make the nation's railroad system in general more efficient. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) was in favor of allowing railroads the opportunity to give freight trains priority over passenger trains. Amtrak was opposed to the change in policy, maintaining that it would hurt the railroad's on-time performance.In a separate ruling, the STB also decided that it would consider on-time arrival and departure at all stations along a passenger train's route for the purpose of on-time performance.The STB will deem a train "on time" if it arrives at or departs from a station no more than 15 minutes after its scheduled arrival or departure, the STB said in a press release.In response to the decisions, Amtrak released this statement:"Amtrak applauds the Surface Transportation Board’s decisions on on-time performance (OTP) and preference. The OTP and reliability of our service are major components of customer satisfaction and of critical importance to passengers in communities large and small. Amtrak looks forward to working closely with the STB and host railroads to ensure that passengers arrive at their destination on time, improving their travel experience while lowering Amtrak operating costs and increasing revenues."AAR said freight railroads will continue to comply with the law regarding preference, but also will review the STB decisions "to evaluate our further legal options.""It is a disappointment that the STB has decided to add mid-point on-time performance measures, which could result in negative impacts for freight rail customers and consumers, but the freight rail industry will continue to work with Amtrak to provide dependable passenger service in the country," said AAR spokesman Ed Greenberg in a prepared statement.The STB decisions can be read here and here.
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